Cell Phone Unlocking Could Once Again Be Legal In USA


The day after the White House called on Congress to make cell phone unlocking legal once again, a Minnesota senator today announced plans for legislation that would allow the practice.


Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, said she will introduce a bill this week that would allow for cell phone unlocking once again. A previous exemption in the 2006 DMCA act expired in October of 2012.


"Consumers should be free to choose the phone and service that best fits their needs and their budgets," Klobuchar said in a statement. "I will continue to work to advance commonsense measures to protect consumers and promote competition."


The senator's announcement comes after the White House said yesterday that it supports cell phone users' right to unlock their devices, which runs contrary to a recent decision from the Copyright Office.


At issue is an October decision from the Library of Congress's (LOC) Copyright Office, which gave consumers a 90-day window to unlock their phones without carrier permission before that practice became illegal in January.


The Copyright Office reviews the rules on unlocking (and jailbreaking) every three years, as required by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). This time around, regulators found that "there are ample alternatives to circumvention. That is, the marketplace has evolved such that there is now a wide array of unlocked phone options available to consumers."


That did not sit well with OpenSignal's Sina Khanifar, who added a petition to the White House site asking for the decision to be reversed. It recently passed the 100,000 e-signature threshold needed for an official White House response, and that response was posted Monday afternoon.


The White House said it disagreed with the LOC's assessment, but the administration does not have the power to simply overturn the decision. As a result, it called on Congress to work with the Federal Communications Commission to craft legislation that would make cell phone unlocking legal. Sen Klobuchar is the first to take up the issue.


CTIA, which represents many of the country's wireless providers, said in a statement yesterday that the ban will not affect most cell phone users "because the largest nationwide carriers have liberal, publicly available unlocking policies, and because unlocked phones are freely available in the marketplace — many at low prices."


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